• 81 years old
  • Born on November 8, 1936 in St. Louis, Missouri, United States.
  • Passed away on January 17, 2018 in Pasadena, California, United States.

Dear Friends,  

After 81 years,  Don's life has come to an end. 

He came down with the flu on New Year's Eve and this escalated into pneumonia and many other complications.  He was removed from the ventilator the afternoon of January 17 and died peacefully that evening.  We were able to say our good-bye's and are enormously indebted to the medical and support staff of Huntington Hospital where he received expert and loving care.    

We are heartbroken but are so grateful to have been able to share his life.   He was a gentleman and a scholar, as happy reading Husserel's phenomenology as watching a USC football game and he sometimes  did these things simultaneously.   He loved learning and teaching, sports, travel, hamburgers, and Springer Spaniels.  He was a serous athlete in college and is the the Washington University Sports Hall of fame where some of his football records still stand.  I was so fortunate to have him as my loving husband and partner for 40 years.  His daughter, Deborah Nunnink; step-daughter, Shanti Corrigan and brother, Robert Polkinghorne were able to be with him during his hospitalization and have been of great support to me in this difficult time.

He will be sorely missed.   

We plan to have a celebration of his life at a later time.  For those who have asked about flowers, we would prefer to have donations in his name to the American Diabetes Association.                     

Some of you may enjoy reading the introduction Don wrote for the book The Paradox of Loss: Toward a Relational Theory of Grief  - available when clicking the preview link for its listing on Amazon.   Additional insight into Don's life can be found on this site under the "His Life" tab.

Warm thanks for your kind condolences, 

-  Dr. Judith Blanton

Posted by Bernie Luskin on 12th November 2018
Donald and Judy Blanton Polkinghorne have been dear friends for many years. Don came to Fielding Graduate University after retiring from USC. He was a beloved research member on many dissertations that I chaired. He was a wonderful caring person and the best, most knowledgeable research expert I ever worked with on dissertations. He was a special friend, we miss Don, and always remember him fondly. He loved his sports car, and Toni and I loved Don.
Posted by Darryl Quinn on 1st April 2018
Don was a wonderful guide through my graduate experience at USC in the early 90s. He was my dissertation chair and I was lucky enough to learn about Husserl and Merleau Ponty on Sundays at his home. He was always gracious, funny, and extremely thoughtful. He taught me the limits of science and the greatness of the individual that I pass onto my students. Most of all, as a therapist, he once complemented me following a session that he had observed through a one-way mirror. His words, "You're intuitive," always meant so much to me as a beginning therapist because it felt true, and I knew it was true. Don is gem, and his sweet smile shines on us all. Thank You Don!
Posted by Bernie Luskin on 24th March 2018
Don Polkinghorn and Judy Blanton Polkinghorn are great friends for many years. Don wrote some of the great research methodology books, among his many works, and was a Distinguished Professor at USC when we first met. My wife Toni was in the PhD program in HOD and meeting Don at a Friends home impressed her greatly. We all developed a great friendship and were active in APA together. I recruited Don and persuaded Don to join Fielding so he could share his research methodology expertise with the then budding program in Media Psychology. Don was a special caring person. He was appreciated by all of his students and was a colleague and valued personal friend. We “tooled” around together in Don's fancy sports car when we had a chance, had fun and a special relationship. We will miss him. Toni and Judy remain in their book club together and continue to share sentimental thoughts of Don when they are together. He was our friend and we will miss him. Don Polkinghorn was an extraordinary man and a great and recognized research meteorologist,
Posted by Scott Otterness on 15th March 2018
I first met Don when I was in the process of investigating graduate studies in Psychology. After our hour long meeting discussing the ideas of Martin Buber, Paul Tillich and Rollo May I was impressed most by his warmth of character and his engaged personality. He later became my mentor for the 10 years that it took me to complete my degree. His was a subtle and steady influence that ultimately deeply shaped my worldview. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have known him. He will be missed.
Posted by Jenny Pak on 14th March 2018
Don was a gentle giant who profoundly touched my life with his deep theoretical, philosophical, and historical integrative thinking and inspiring me to examine culture critically through narrative. I knew this was the only path for me when I met him at USC. In depth qualitative approach is still little understood or valued, and I see Don's argument for human science and advocacy for practice research ever more relevant in the current professional climate. I am very grateful for the rich phenomenal world of culture, narrative, and self which he pointed the way. I hope in my life time I would be able to bring to fruition what he has sown. I was very blessed to have known Don and be mentored by him. With deep gratitude, Jenny.
Posted by John Carter on 13th March 2018
Don was a wonderfully wise and kind person. He was the reason I came to USC Counseling Psych back in 1996 - someone who welcomed and encouraged all of my "big ideas" at the intersection of psychology, philosophy, and religious studies (like "What is it like to be a human being?") And he shepherded me through every stage of my dissertation - including a very timely "I am retiring - you need to finish!" He welcomed me and my fellow advisees into his home on Sunday mornings and we felt like a part of his extended family. I recall Chelsea (his springer) nudging me aside on the couch and insisting that my lap would be a good place for her head! I will miss not having him as a friend and a mentor in the world any longer, although I imagine him to be looking down fondly on all of us, calling each of us to live up to our own unique potential.
Posted by Fox Vernon on 28th February 2018
Don welcomed me into a caring, scholarly friendship that nurtured my love of psychology and philosophy. He brought together a community of open-minded, critical thinking "thought travelers" at USC's Counseling Psychology program, and I relished my time with him and this fabulous group of people. I miss him!
Posted by Jack Martin on 31st January 2018
Don was interested in persons--in both his life and work. In his introduction to Jeff Sugarman's and my 1999 book, The Psychology of Human Possibility and Constraint, Don wrote about personhood as an ongoing process: 'a reflective and purposeful self that is open to its own inner emotions and thoughts, to other selves, and to the flux of nature.' Don was a person in full.
Posted by Shanti Corrigan on 30th January 2018
"Don Polkinghorne was one of the most sensible and kind theoretical psychologists I have known—a stimulating conversationalist and convivial colleague. His 1988 book, Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences, is a significant contribution that is well worth reading these 30 years later. One memorable definition from that book reads “Self, then, is not a static thing nor a substance, but a configuring of personal events into a historical unity which includes not only what one has been but also anticipations of what one will be" (p. 150)." Jack Martin "Alan, Thanks for forwarding the news, although it is sad news indeed. Don was external examiner of my dissertation and I was fortunate to come to know him better in time. He was a generous mentor, a rare scholar, and a person of substance. I will always feel deep gratitude to Don for all he did for me personally and for his important contributions to theoretical and philosophical psychology." Jeff Sugarman "Don was the consummate gentleman and just plan gentle man. Mild-mannered and thoughtful, he was a premier methodologist in the classical sense. Investigative questions meant not only a potentially new method design but also possibly a new philosophy of science. He will be greatly missed." Brent Slife We plan to include a brief remembrance in the Division's newsletter and acknowledge Don at the annual Business Meeting at the APA convention in August. With gratitude for Don's profoundly important contributions to theoretical and philosophical psychology, Alan Tjeltveit APA Division 24 President
Posted by Dennis Hocevar on 25th January 2018
I am so sorry to hear of Don’s passing. Albert Einstein once said: “The intuitive mind is the sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” These words are even more relevant today and reflect a common theme in Don’s writings. Late in his USC career, Don and I were tasked with developing and teaching a qualitative/quantitative inquiry course in the Rossier School of Education. We were opposites on the qualitative/quantitative debate, but in countless discussions with Don, we were able to agree upon and teach a course that satisfied the both of us and most of the Rossier faculty. Don was a scholar’s scholar and a philosopher whose ideas transcended many disciplines. Working with Don changed the way I thought about the evidence-based (i.e., quantitative) science that now pervades education, psychology, and the rest of the behavioral sciences. Our countless discussions over the inquiry readings were one of the most gratifying and valuable experiences of my academic career. Most importantly, Don was a good human being and personified what the humanistic philosophy that grounded his academic life. I was privileged to have worked with him.
Posted by George Howard on 24th January 2018
I traveled with Don from Saybrook to Fullerton, to USC. Judy and he graciously hosted me several times along the way, and one couldn't hope for finer soul-mates. Winston once told me he enjoyed our long walks and talks more than his walks and chats with Don. Winston's tastes in philosophy were in Pragmatism more so than in Phenomenology. Of course, Winston bound me to never mention that to Don--as he was even more caring and sensitive than Don himself--if you can even imagine that possible. In one of the great tragedies of publishing history, I received my copy of Don's Methodology for the Human Sciences before Don even saw the book. I loaned him my copy for a few days until his arrived--because he promised he'd return it as soon as his copy arrived. I felt that Don spent the rest of his life repaying me for that simple kindness... However, I am now one of many who wonder why Don was more kind to them than they feel they deserved. It was one of his special gifts.
Posted by Jeff Sugarman on 24th January 2018
Don was the external examiner of my dissertation and I was fortunate to come to know him better in time. He was a generous mentor, a rare scholar, and a person of substance. I will always feel deep gratitude to Don for all he did for me personally and for his important contributions to theoretical and philosophical psychology.
Posted by Florence Bonner on 20th January 2018
Hey Don! This I believe, words spoken by Joseph Campbell "... if you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living..." I found in your presence a serenity, gentleness, confidence and love for my friend Judy (not to mention, Winston and all the little Springer dogs that brought you so much joy); so smart and yet so not pretentious; clearly you lived that life that was meant to be. Transition in peace my friend.
Posted by Dr. Lawrence Drake on 19th January 2018
Don, was my interviewer when applied to Fielding as well as my instructor and advisor during my time at a Fielding . I so cared about him and respected him as both a scholar and practitioner. He served so many humbly but effectively! May he Rest In Peace!
Posted by Dottie Yuppy on 19th January 2018
Dr. Don Polkinghorne made a huge impact in my studies as a media psychologist. We honored him in life with a special award so I am glad we had the opportunity to let him know how much he was loved and appreciated. He elevated learning and helped us become true professionals. He was a calm soul with deep insight. Don, you will be sorely missed! <3 Dr. Neen
Posted by Estela Bensimon on 18th January 2018
Dear Don, I am grateful to you forever for being my constant and non-judgmental friend from 1995, when I arrived at USC to now. One of the smartest things I have done in my career is to invite you to join me at the Center for Urban Education. I remember you were writing your last book Practice in the Human Sciences and the Center's researchers would read chapters as you wrote them. And the more we read the more we became followers of your ideas. Your imprint is in the tools CUE has created over the years and the principles of learning and change that undergird our work. You enriched my life. Your brilliance and originality of thought inspired me to be creative and engage in work that has been the most satisfying in my career. Thank you for being my friend, mentor, and inspiration. With all my love, Estela

Leave a Tribute